After spending around 7 years of my life in Britain, my visa runs out this month and I’m officially moving back to New York. In my head, I made a short to do list of all the things I wanted to do in the UK that I might not have the chance to do in the near future, and one of those things was to visit Glencoe. So, my boyfriend and I waited for the one day during his week off mid February where the weather wasn’t miserable, and drove north.
My boyfriend loves to climb, and in some kind of karmic twist, he’s ended up with someone petrified of heights. This summer we climbed up Ben Nevis (the tallest mountain in Britain) by way of the Càrn Mòr Dearg, across the Arete and then up the back of Ben Nevis. The entire way, the only thing that urged me forward was the fact that I didn’t want to go down the way we came, and once we reached the cloud covered summit, I cried, thinking that we still had more to go.
The journey to Glencoe feels like driving on a paved road through Mordor to Mount Doom. It’s haunting. And overwhelming. And almost too beautiful to take everything in.
We drove up early in the morning to begin our walk up the Hidden Valley midday. Supposedly, the valley was used by the MacDonalds to hide their cattle, but as my feet struggled to stay sure-footed on some of the steeper parts, I can’t imagine a 500 lbs highland coo managing the ascent. Despite our initial scramble over a large portion of snowy boulders after losing the path, we relatively easily and quickly made our way into the valley.
A note for Game of Thrones lovers (spoilers to those who are culturally behind the times), the area is the location of The Massacre of Glencoe, which inspired the Red Wedding in the novels. Those cattle hiders, the MacDonalds, were brutally murdered by their guests in February 1689, and those who weren’t killed by the soldiers they housed, died from exposure in the highland winter. Warm fuzzy things to think about as you’re walking through the area.
As most of our relationship revolves around when and what we will eat, we packed plenty of sandwiches and a thermos of tea for the crest of the hill and snacked in the protection of the valley. After finishing our meal, we frolicked in the snow for a while, which was the first snow I’d seen since Christmas in New York, and chatted to some of the other walkers who had accidentally followed our misguided path in the snow up the mountain (sorry again!).
The snow was, as described by my boyfriend, “avalanche-y,” and pretty deep further into the valley, so we walked about halfway in and then began our descent. Once we reached our car, we shed some of our layers, and headed to the Clachiag Inn, where we dined on a simple lunch of shandies and chips, which is apparently the only way to end a walk.
I’d be lying if I said there was a lot to do in the evening in Glencoe during the winter. In fact, I’d be lying if I said there was much to do in Scotland in general in the evening in winter. So, once we finished our meal, we headed to our hotel (The King’s House Hotel), and settled in for the night with two charged Kindles and a sofa next to a coal fire. But sometimes, after a long day of physical activity in the cold, isn’t that all you want?
Kings House Hotel
Glencoe, Argyll PH49 4HY
+44 1855 851259
Glencoe, Argyll, PH49 4HX
+44 (0) 1855 811252
Oh, and don’t forget to check out our store for prints from our travels and more!